For two years, I worked at my college's library behind the circulation desk. To this day, I still insist it's the best job I ever had. However, working in a college library might not be the right job for everyone. With that being said, I have decided to compile a list of things I've learned while working on campus.
1. You will not work more than twenty hours per week
Depending on what your institution's rules are, most colleges will not allow students to work more than a certain number of hours per week. If you're a busy student and you don't have a lot of time on your hands, this will be just fine. However, if you're looking for a job where you're working more than twenty hours per week, you might want to consider looking for an extra job on the side.
2. Be ready to do more than just shelving books
In today's modern libraries, a library assistant needs to have more than just good organizational skills and knowledge of the Dewey decimal system. During busy shifts, a library can become just like the checkout line in the supermarket, so patience and customer service skills are a must. With the increase in technology on college campuses, being technologically savvy is also an excellent qualification. It was not unusual for older students to come up to the desk and ask for help using our online database to find books. Being bilingual or fluent in a particular subject is also very helpful. When I worked at my college's library, there was actually a student from Mexico who came up to the desk and needed help translating an assignment. He had written the assignment in broken English and needed a native English speaker to help him proofread it. I quickly learned after that day that working in a college library also entails doing a little bit of tutoring.
3. Use your downtime wisely
While working in a library, there will be some shifts where you will have ten people at once who want to check out books. Other times, no one will be in the library at all. During slower shifts, it is usually a good idea to do things like check the book return boxes and shelve materials. Where I worked, we were even allowed to work on homework during slower shifts.
4. The customer is not always right
One of the benefits of working in the same place where you go to school is that your customers also go to school, so they understand the hardships of earning a living while earning an education. As a result, most of the people you deal with on a daily basis will be incredibly polite. However, like with retail jobs, there will be the occasional person whose soul purpose is to ruin your day. Most of the time, those are people who have library fines or who have missing items. Other times, these are people who are just plain mean. I once had a co-worker from Vietnam who worked the night shift. A customer came in and asked for assistance. My Vietnamese co-worker offered to help him and the customer told my co-worker he'd rather be helped by an American. Fortunately, the staff where I worked did not take kindly to anyone abusing the student workers (we had enough on our plate to deal with as it was) and anyone caught harassing the workers was asked to leave on the spot. My supervisors when I worked at the library showed me way more sympathy than I ever got when I worked at Safeway.
5. It's a little like working in an office
Yes, you'll be doing a lot of clerical work, but it goes beyond that. We have a break room with a water cooler. We gossip. We have office parties (when my favorite co-worker and I both transferred to different schools, the staff threw us a fantastic going-away party). Working at the library was very much like a nine-to-five job.
If you choose to work in a college library, your experiences might be different from mine. However, I absolutely loved my job, and I was very sad to leave when I transferred to another school. If given the chance, I would definitely work on campus again as opposed to working a retail job.